The UK gambling industry is sitting at a crossroads, and the way forward has the potential to cause a negative flow-on effect for the industry.
It is no secret that the industry is currently dealing with an image problem, resulting from some 15 years of liberalised gaming laws in the UK. However, more complex issues are surfacing as lawmakers continue to support a move towards the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to stop players from chasing their losses on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs).
While the heated ‘he said, she said’ argument rages on, the underlying reason for the implementation of AI is to curb problem gambling by leveraging the Anonymous Player Awareness System (APAS) to detect if players are blowing their cool and chasing losses.
On the surface, this would be a win for the UK and a much-needed image restoration for the industry – except for some in the industry who believe that tighter regulations will simply force players towards an unregulated overseas online casino site.
The AI changes proposed the implementation of an APAS, which is a computer system or algorithm that is designed to analyse player behaviours on FOBTs.
This big brother like concept will be able to recognise problematic player behaviours at casinos like chasing losses, increasing the speed of bets when losing, placing erratic bets, as well as spending increased amounts of time on one machine.
What the APAS will do is lock the machine down for a varying period of at least 30 seconds, and display responsible gambling notices on the machine.
This lockdown is effectively a “cooling off” period for a player. However, the system will also notify the gaming manager who has the discretion of choosing to investigate or not.
Although the introduction of AI systems in gambling is a progressive step towards championing the better standards and practices for the industry, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) are opposing the strict nature of the Government’s suggestions among their other proposed reforms.
The BGC is urging the Government to ‘cool off’ itself, and allow the industry to preempt their own regulatory crackdowns with proactive self-regulation, and a commitment to safer gambling.
Brigid Simmonds OBE, Chairman of the BGC, said:
“We set limits on what we do every day and betting and gaming should be no different.”
As the industry continues to push back against inconsistency and over-regulation, the BGC recently launched its ‘Limits are Good’ video campaigns to highlight the need for a portion of the onus of preventing problem gambling to start at the hands of the player.
Previous reforms to the operations of FOBTs and the reduction of the maximum betting odds to £2, lead to a decline in the revenue of retail betting shops, and the closures and redundancies of thousands of Brits.
With this recent history in mind, the proposed reforms before Parliament around limiting the maximum betting odds of online casinos and slots has been met with criticism of misguided benevolence and inconsistency from the gambling industry.
The CEO of online and retail gaming giant GVC, Kenny Alexander publicly disputed the “false” comparison that the Government made of FOBTs and online casinos, on the basis that the retail betting shops do not contend with a black market as such.
“If they put a £2 limit on online casinos, the day after that, virtually the same amount of people who used to stake more than £2 will go to the black market.”
Alexander went on to say that these strict reforms would simply force these players to a worse-evil, which prompts the question of what would be next?